August 19, 2008

Name: James Aalan Bernsen
Posting date: 8/20/08
Stationed in: Iraq   
Milblog: James Aalan Bernsen

Among the most ubiquitous things on a U.S. base overseas are security barriers. They range from the lowly sandbag wall, to the low but more stout Jersey Barrier, to the massive T-Wall. They're used on our bases, out in town to protect Iraqi neighborhoods -- everywhere.


In fact, the concrete wall-building industry is one of the biggest industries in Iraq right now.


Hesco barriers. A frame of wire and cardboard filled with sand. These are portable, easy to put up, and you just add sand. They're better than nothing, but certainly not ideal. Over in a far corner of our base -- so close to the edge that you can look over the wall into a Baghdad neighborhood -- is a place where T-walls go to die. Or at least to wait.

Most of the early T-walls are about five feet tall and built with long horizontal bases. These served lots of purposes, but they were far from perfect, and less than ideal when it came to force protection (see this post on the rocket shrapnel that hit my trailer). The military decided, perhaps to the taxpayer's chagrin but definitely to our relief, to build tall, vertical T-walls that reached up 12 feet or more.


T-walls of the larger variety. These have become such iconic symbols of life in Iraq that generals give miniature replicas out as departing gifts to their subordinates. But though the trend towards the larger T-walls replacing everything else, there are still tons of other kinds around.

Many folks have taken to decorating them. At the Baghdad International Airport there's a row painted with the flag of each of the 50 states, and signed by soldiers from those states. Some of the drawings are crude, but most are elaborate and well-done:




A close-up shot of the previous image.


This one is at the base you enter and leave through in Kuwait. I hope it will be the last T-wall I ever see.


Another one from Kuwait.


Here's a T-wall from the airbase in Qatar.


Back in Iraq, the Military Police do a good job on their T-walls.


More T-walls over at the M.P. compound

As I said, T-walls outlive their usefulness at some point. With the Hesco Barriers, it's easy. You just dump the sand -- which they do over on the golf driving range -- and then send the barrier frame to be recycled. T-walls, however, are a different problem, hence the graveyard:





It's not exactly China Lake, California and B-29s, but these desolate remnants of our military past will be a reminder, long after we're gone, of what it was like at the peak of the war.

Walking to lunch one day, an Army captain friend of mine nodded to some of the barriers we passed on the way. "What do you think will happen to these things when we're gone," she asked.

"I don't know. Maybe they can lay them on their sides and use them for road beds. Or for canals," I said,not too convincingly.

The truth is, there probably isn't any good use for them other than making walls, and hopefully Iraq will one day get to the point where walls aren't all that necessary anymore. Still, they're big, they're heavy, and there here, and they will likely still be here for generations -- if not centuries. Kind of like the Marsten Mats I kept running across in France that were left over from D-Day, T-walls will endure long after the American military is gone.


Nice pictures, glad they still paint with pride the gray concrete to hide. Did the Legions of Rome do it, too?

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 08/20/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

my #3 son is the engineer at loyalty.among his projects are the wall placements.they sure look over and ask for dunford the navy up the texas connection. he'll get going on bonfires and the a+m engineer student he worked with one might try and buy them and then sell them back to the us for border home soon bopdun

Great pictures! Thanks for sharing that part of Iraq.

It is great to see the art that they are putting on the unused walls. Could they use them to build better houses for some of the delapidated villages?

Thanks for sharing the pictures and story of the walls. I was unaware of them. I also didn't know about marsten mats I hope they are able to find something useful to do with these huge walls like they did the mats.

Wow, that's a lot of walls! I bet they could probably build their own "Great Wall" just like China. I know that they served a purpose, but I am wondering, just like you, what will they do with them once we are gone? The pictures you took are very interesting, and the art work is excellant. I especially liked the pictures the MP's made. I hope that your time overseas is almost over, and that you will not have to face any more walls.

Nice pictures.
I found the souvenir TWalls at some of the PX's. They are a great conversation starter when you get home.
I found the link when I found this thread. Desert Memories

These T-walls are being either destroyed or painted over. A book with represenatative phots of T-wall has been recently published.

The url is

I would say the book is great but then I am biased as I contributed a lot of the photos.

James Ball

Just want to say thanks for the photos and story. It was a pleasant surprised to find some of my T-wall artwork published here.
I was assigned to the 506 Military Police Detachment (Law & Order)
on the Victory Base Complex 2007-2008.
I was tasked to paint the T-walls for the 506MP Det, the 58th Brigade Combat Team, and the Task Force Eagle as well as others that are not pictured here. Again, thanx for the memories.

- Justin Rogers

We have captured the memories of Soldiers of the U.S. military, and coalition forces by creating these realistic versions of the infamous "T-Wall" seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. With "damaged chunks" blown off the wall, to the texture and feel of the Soldier T-wall, these are now cherished by Soldiers around the world. A portion of every sale will go back into programs which help "Wounded Warriors", homeless Veterans, and other life-changing charities. If you would like to help out by purchasing your very own mini t-walll, go to:

Proud member of once 785th CSC combat stress company... now its a detachment..sad..

T-walls are the unsung heroes of the war in Iraq. It was the T-wall that changed the course of the war although it will go unnoticed in the annals of history. The lesson learned from both Iraq and Afghanistan is that you cannot defeat an insurgency, it is like an old soldiers, it just fades away. What I mean by that, is an insurgency by its truest definition is composed of locals acting locally, and motivated by self-interest. To quell an insurgency, you must create a "Cause to Live for that is Greater than 'Their' Cause to Die For" or you must be able to isolate the insurgents on the battlefield. We unfortunately did not create a cause to live for that was greater than their cause but via the use of T-Walls, we were able to create isolation and check points within the battle-space that controlled the flow of personnel, weapons and armaments within an geographically area. This changed the face of the war and allowed us to create the security necessary so that over time the insurgency "Just Faded Away." It T-Wall was a great decision and changed the course of the war....

T- WALL-----this changed alot on the game of war in IRAQ--------

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